A New York man suspected of trying to cash fraudulent checks using fake identification cards in New York and New England remained Friday night at the Penobscot County Jail unable to post $20,000 cash bail.
Mark Pignatello, 54, of Yonkers made his first court appearance Friday by video conference at the Penobscot Judicial Center on charges of forgery, theft by deception and misuse of identification.
He was not asked to enter pleas to the charges because he has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury.
Pignatello on Wednesday visited branches of People’s United Bank in Orono, Bangor and Newport trying to cash large out-of-state checks using identification cards that contained his photo but the name Salvatore J. Zarrella, according to Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy.
Pignatello was successful only in Orono, where he was able to cash a check for nearly $3,000, Almy said after Pignatello appeared in court. He was turned away at branches in Bangor and Newport, in part, because a fraud alert was issued after he tried to do the same thing at a People’s bank in New Hampshire earlier in the month, the prosecutor said.
“He operated in a smooth manner,” Almy said of Pignatello. “He’s experienced at this.”
Pignatello’s criminal history in New York dates back to the 1980s, Mark Rucci, assistant district attorney, told District Court Judge Bruce Jordan. Pignatello has been convicted of burglary, robbery, larceny, fraud and drug crimes multiple times over the past 30 years, Rucci said.
The judge doubled the amount of bail Rucci requested to $20,000 cash. In setting the high cash bail, Jordan said that $10,000 was “too light” and that Pignatello has no ties to Maine.
Pignatello was arrested at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Newport after he tried to cash a phony check for $3,000 at the People’s branch in that southern Penobscot County town.
Pignatello could be charged in federal court if his course of conduct spanned several states and involved multiple victims.
If convicted of the most serious state charges of Class C fraud and forgery, Pignatello would face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and an order to pay restitution.
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